Occupy Wall Street

Culture Warrior

Warning: This article contains possible spoilers for Cosmopolis. At some point about halfway through David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis, Vija Kinsky (Samantha Morton) informs young billionaire asset manager Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) that the chaotic protestors wreaking havoc outside the windows of the state-of-the-art, impenetrable limousine 2.0 they occupy subscribe to an anarchist philosophy that holds destruction itself to be a creative act. Implicitly citing the work of economist Joseph Schumpeter, Kinsky then points out (perhaps ironically, perhaps not) that capitalism is also a form of “creative destruction”: the market moves through cyclical ebbs and flows, older resources must be exploited in new fashions, the seemingly new is always replaced by the purportedly antiquated, and so on. This view of destroying the old as a means in of itself to produce something new also emboldens the work of productive critique, a practice in which Cosmopolis (as both novel and film) is heavily and centrally invested in terms of its narrative and intellectual preoccupations. Cosmopolis is no doubt a strange and unique film, a provocation as necessary as it is unwelcome in the wake of Hollywood’s stock cloning practices. That the film stars Pattinson, an actor both beloved and despised because his astronomical fame has been created by this Hollywood, highlights the film’s inevitably polarizing difference all the more. Cosmopolis is a sort of narrative “essay film,” at once a polemic without urgency, a manifesto that doesn’t design a way out, and an apocalyptic suicide note too disillusioned with and desensitized in the […]

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The Hunger Games

Maybe our science fiction writers have failed us with all their damned pessimism, or maybe we’re all just obsessed with the world ending because it’s definitely going to stop spinning this year. Either way, everyone on this doomed planet is currently obsessed with the cold, distant Dystopian futures of hits like The Hunger Games. Now it’s time to figure out what it all means (which also means a bit of psychoanalysis). Good thing the Jennifer Lawrence-starring flick has people hungrily dissecting it for meaning. The results? Old Jewish heroines, our cinematic past, Occupy Wall Street, unspoken sexuality and the anti-Twilight.

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With the Occupy movement continually growing and changing, it’s no surprise that films about the nationwide movement are starting to take shape – but it is a (very pleasant) surprise that one of the first announced films is ready to screen some of its preview footage, and in a venue conducive to easy and affordable watching. 99% – The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film is just that – a feature film created by a stunning mass of over 75 independent filmmakers, photographers, videographers and editors across the country. The project was conceived of by filmmakers Audrey Ewell and Aaron Aites in the early weeks of the first encampment in Zuccotti Park, New York City. With such a massive collaborative effort, the film features footage from across the country, including some of the more notable encampments in NYC, Los Angeles, and Oakland. The filmmakers have just announced a special online preview screening of footage from the film for January 7, taking place on the nifty in-home viewing platform, Constellation. The preview screening will not only provide a first look at the film as it takes shape, it will also provide a fundraising opportunity for the filmmakers, through their Kickstarter campaign. Check out the film’s official trailer after the break, along with more information on the Constellation online screening and how it works.

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Culture Warrior

Usually I’m quite cynical about end-of-year lists, as they demand a forced encapsulation of an arbitrary block of time that is not yet over into something simplified. I typically find end-of-year lists fun, but rarely useful. But 2011 is different. As Scott Tobias pointed out, while “quiet,” this was a surprisingly strong year for interesting and risk-taking films. What’s most interesting has been the variety: barely anything has emerged as a leading contender that tops either critics’ lists or dominates awards buzz. Quite honestly, at the end of 2010 I struggled to find compelling topics, trends, and events to define the year in cinema. The final days of 2011 brought a quite opposite struggle, for this year’s surprising glut of interesting and disparate films spoke to one another in a way that makes it difficult to isolate any of the year’s significant works. Arguments in the critical community actually led to insightful points as they addressed essential questions of what it means to be a filmgoer and a cinephile. Mainstream Hollywood machine-work and limited release arthouse fare defied expectations in several directions. New stars arose. Tired Hollywood rituals and ostensibly reliable technologies both met new breaking points. “2011” hangs over this year in cinema, and the interaction between the films – and the events and conversations that surrounded them – makes this year’s offerings particular to their time and subject to their context. This is what I took away from this surprising year:

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a thing about movies that happens every week night, just before you go to bed. It brings you dangerous ideas, fascinating movie news and all that in between copious helpings of shenanigans. We begin tonight with one of three beautiful new images from Pixar’s upcoming film Brave. As with all Pixar projects, Brave looks absolutely gorgeous and in a point of interest to many, stars their first leading lady hero, Merida, voiced by Kelly MacDonald. Personally, I’m looking forward to it. Then again, I’ve been pot committed to Pixar for a while. In a terribly sad bit of news, NBC has pulled Community from its midseason schedule. This doesn’t mean that it’s been cancelled, but it’s definitely not a good thing for Community fans (also known as “anyone has ever watched Community“). We should have known that it was too good to last.

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The Dark Knight Occupies Wall Street

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s not the nightly news column you want right now, but it’s the one you need. Because you need a nightly news column that will be strong in the face of adversity, cover the things you care about, and publish videos of Ryan Gosling being sexy without words. We begin tonight with a shot from the set of The Dark Knight Rises, something we’ve refrained from covering too much. However, I found this particular photo — one of a batch from Mail Online – that shows a tender moment between our hero, as played by Christian Bale, and his new foe Bane, as played by Tom Hardy. Just a little hug as Chris Nolan’s production occupies Occupy Wall Street in New York.

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Culture Warrior

One of the great misconceptions about Hollywood is that it is a liberal institution. Several false assumptions inform this misconception: thinking of “Hollywood” as a monolithic entity in any way besides its shared corporate infrastructure, confusing public endorsements of celebrity politicians by celebrity movie stars as political activism, thinking that left-leaning consumers of movies see Hollywood as representing their political beliefs in any way, selectively reading a limited number of texts (e.g., Green Zone “proves” Hollywood’s liberalism, but every superhero movie ever isn’t proof of its conservatism), and, most importantly, thinking that the most public figures associated with Hollywood (i.e., stars and filmmakers) are Hollywood. This last point I think is one that has continued to be the least considered when such straw man critiques are drawn, because Hollywood here is equated only with its most visible figures who overshadow its intricate but also not-so-shrouded political economy. It’s no mistake that despite the fluctuating numbers of major and minor Hollywood studios in the past 100 years, the most powerful studios, like the biggest banks in the nation, have been referred to as “The Big Five.” And indeed, to the surprise of no one, both Big Fives have had and are continuing a lucrative relationship with one another. Hollywood’s agenda, of course, has always been profit, and the representatives of this ideology are not George Clooney and Matt Damon, but Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal (Chairman/CEO & Co-Chairman, Sony/Columbia), Stephen Blairson (CEO, 20th Century Fox), Brad Grey (Chairman/CEO, Paramount), Ronald Meyer […]

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Now that the L.A. portion of shooting for Christopher Nolan’s third Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises is finishing up, the production is packing up and getting ready to head out to New York City. And according to 24 Frames, someone working on the the film who has access to the actors’ schedules says that those in the movie have been briefed that while in New York they may be filming scenes that take place at the Occupy Wall Street protests. What sort of craziness is this? Well apparently there are scenes of civil unrest in TDKR and instead of going through the trouble of making his own, fake protests, Nolan would like to see if he could add some authenticity to his film by using a real street movement as a backdrop. Everything that TDKR is actually doing is, of course, super secret. The movie doesn’t even film under its own name, it films under the code name “Magnus Rex,” so whether any of this talk about protest shooting is real or not is hard to confirm. This news is coming from one source that has contacted the L.A. Times, so to believe is to have faith in them. If shooting that takes place at the protests actually does become a reality, it’s interesting to imagine how the social movement would respond to having a big Hollywood production in their midst. Would they see the movie industry as a tool of corporate greed and try to disrupt the shootings? […]

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, we speak with hardboiled crime fiction writer Max Allan Collins about writing for film and print and chat briefly with Aaron Aites, one of the producers behind a documentary about the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Plus, we use Michael McDonald as an audio pun. As usual. Download This Episode

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As most of you probably know, there are a bunch of people hanging around Wall Street these days. Making signs, waving them, voting to see what they do next. It’s a growing movement that’s recently been joined by Anonymous threatening to remove the New York Stock Exchange from the internet on October 10th. Normally in a situation like this, the whole world would watch as it plays out before hearing that some studio has optioned the rights to tell the story fictionally, but in this case, independent documentary filmmakers are banding together to make sure that the event is showed in its purest form. A Kickstarter campaign was started for 99% – The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film by Audrey Ewell and Aaron Aites (the filmmaking team beyond the Black Metal doc Until the Light Takes Us). Other filmmakers involved include Tyler Brodie (executive producer for Another Earth and Pi), Michael Galinsky (Battle for Brooklyn), Ava DuVernay (publicist and writer/director of I Will Follow), and to illustrate how quickly this thing is moving forward, Bob Ray (the Austin-based writer/director behind Total Badass) joined while I was writing this post.

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